It seemed like a long-shot at various points throughout the group stage but the USMNT has made it to the knockout rounds at the World Cup. While some fans are still frustrated by the team’s inability to score goals, at the end of the day the US got where they needed to go. Whether they did it by hook or by crook doesn’t matter now. It’s the knockout rounds. It’s time to switch to survive and advance mode. As long as they find a way to advance, that’s all that matters at this point. And their Round of 16 opponent of the Netherlands figures to make them work for it. 

Christian Pulisic steps up

The best players in the world step up on the biggest stage. Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey did it repeatedly for the US at multiple World Cups. Christian Pulisic is the best player and face of the USMNT. When the chips were down and the US needed a win against Iran to advance, Pulisic put it all on the line and scored the only goal of the game. He paid the price for it, too. A pelvic contusion yielded a halftime substitution and a trip to a hospital for evaluation. Currently, he is day-to-day. However, Pulisic fully intends to play in the match for the USA in his preview of the game against the Netherlands.

The rest of the team held up well despite Pulisic’s second half absence. Their lack of goal-scoring has been a hotly debated subject. Even then, defensive performances have been outstanding.

In fact, the USMNT posted consecutive clean sheets at a World Cup for the first time since the very first World Cup in 1930. Matt Turner already has more World Cup clean sheets than any other US goalkeeper. Gregg Berhalter threw Cameron Carter-Vickers to the wolves against Iran. He held up well in his World Cup start. With the game in the final minutes, Walker Zimmerman came on and redeemed himself after his penalty against Wales. 

A preview of the Netherlands for the USA

The Dutch played well so far at this World Cup. That being said, the performances are not dominant. This game is far from a forgone conclusion.

The Netherlands topped Group A with seven points out of a possible nine, but have not been overwhelming. They defeated Senegal 2-0 in their opener but left it until the 84th minute. They followed that up with a 1-1 draw against Ecuador. Their final group game was against Qatar, who now holds the dubious distinction as the worst performing host nation at a World Cup ever. Holland dispatched them 2-0 with ease. 

Incredibly, the Dutch has not lost since June of 2021. Then, they fell 2-0 to the Czech Republic in the round of 16 at Euro 2020. That result cost former boss Frank de Boer his job. In his stead, the Netherlands turned again to Louis van Gaal who had managed them from 2000-2001 and then again at the 2014 World Cup. Since van Gaal’s takeover, the Dutch posted a 13-0-5 record (W-L-D). They have a supremely talented roster with the likes of Virgil van Dijk, Cody Gakpo and Memphis Depay.

But, reports in the last 24 hours suggest that a number of their players are battling the flu bug. Only time will tell if that will cause problems for them against the US. 

Knockout fixture

The most recent meeting between the two teams was supposed to be in March of 2020 in Eindhoven. The US 101st Airborne Division liberated the city during World War II. However, the COVID-19 pandemic canceled the game.

Therefore, the last time these two sides played was also the only time the United States defeated the Netherlands. Overall, the USMNT holds a record of one win and four losses to the European side. That one win came in Amsterdam on June 5 2015. The United States won 4-3 with Danny Williams and Bobby Wood scoring in the 89th and 90th minute, respectively, to give the Americans a win.

Also, US defender Sergiño Dest was born in the Netherlands. Yet, he opted to play for the American contingent over the Dutch.

He is likely to start against the Netherlands come Saturday, Dec. 3 at Khalifa International Stadium.

The game kicks off at 10 a.m. ET with coverage on FOX. There is also preview coverage of the USA vs Netherlands starting at 9 a.m.

PHOTO: IMAGO / Icon Sportswire

Guide to World Cup 2022

Here are some resources to help you get the most out of the biggest event in soccer!
TV Schedule: All the info on where and when to watch every game
The Groups: We breakdown each group and all the teams
The Kits: Check out what every team will be wearing on the field this fall
Predictor: Play out every scenario with our World Cup Predictor
World Cup Bracket: Map out the entire tournament, from the groups to the final